The project is aimed at the development of an electronic database dedicated to studies of national and cultural features of large social communities in the context of contemporary trends of globalization and cultural interaction. The database will provide access to research texts and information about the subject matters and the features of national mentalities of people from various regions of the world and their manifestations in different spheres of social life (in economics, politics, culture, language, etc.).
The project will pay much attention to Russia, its ethnical and cultural diversity, problems of interaction between peoples and cultures in the context of the formation of a consolidated Russian nation. The participants of the project are expected to use both classical explorations dedicated to national features (including large amounts of information about the studies of Russian national character in the native philosophical thought of the second half of the 19th — the early 20th century) and contemporary Russian and foreign elaborations in this field.
The project is developing on the basis of the Department of Social Philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences in cooperation with the Department of Regional Studies and Centre of Cross-Cultural Studies of the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Area Studies at Lomonosov Moscow State University.
The implementation of this project will allow to make a contribution to the conceptualization of a range of fundamental and applied scientific challenges. First of all, this is the fact of the growing interaction and interconnection between cultures under conditions of globalization, related problems of communication between representatives of different peoples (nations) and prevention of possible threats (foremost, transnational terrorism). In these conditions, studies of national and cultural features of nations in various regions of the world take centre stage as they offer a clue to a more adequate understanding of the Other and consequently to development of correct strategies for international (interethnic) interaction. Furthermore, in this context the members of the development team understand the “national” as something that has primarily a cultural and political meaning. Whereas the “ethnical” is regarded as something that has a relation mainly with a natural origin. (From this point of view, in order to be a bearer of features of a national mentality it is not necessary to belong to a titular ethnic group, but it is essential to share the values of a national culture and an idea of civic consciousness.)
The point mentioned above covers the intra-Russian situation as well, because Russia is historically a complicated conglomerate of peoples (ethnoses) who have not always been in good relations. Nowadays, researchers note the processes of building of a new Russian nation and in the face of them this issue (international, interethnic interrelations) is especially burning and it needs to be actively considered per se. In this regard, the implementation of the project dedicated to research on national mentalities (including a variety of ethnic mentalities of the peoples of Russia), seems to be able to make a certain contribution to the interpretation of these problems and to become a comprehensive source of academic information for experts in the field of interethnic relations.
The second issue that can be conceptualized is the study of the influence of national features on various aspects of contemporary social life. In the context of social philosophy, studies of “national characters” are now becoming the key theme in the analysis of the distinguishing features of national models of development (Russia, China, India, Brazil, and other countries). In particular, research works by a number of outstanding foreign and Russian scientists (first of all, S. Huntington, Sh. Eisenstadt, M. Crozier, in Russia — K.S. Gadzhiev, V.G. Fedotova, V.N. Shevchenko, V.I. Spiridonova, R.I. Sokolova, etc.) beyond any doubt show that in specific contexts successful modernization is not only impossible without paying attention to national peculiarities, but in fact it implies their active application (reliance on them) in the process of the elaboration of national strategies for development. In this respect, a “high-quality” (i.e. it involves a top-priority application of the historical and cultural approach) research on national features and their impacts on the processes of social development can serve as a basis for the elaboration of a conception of the national model of modernization (a term coined by Professor V.G. Fedotova) in specific Russian conditions.
Furthermore, the realization of the project can provide input into the conceptualization of a range of special problems of theoretical and methodological character that are quite urgent today in Russian and world academic communities. Among these problems we can mention the growing approval of constructionist approaches (E. Gellner, B. Anderson, etc.) in Russian humanities (in different fields) to the disadvantage of the primordial or essentialist view (S.M. Shirokogorov, Yu.M. Bromley, etc.) on the origin and development of ethnoses (and national communities appearing on their basis) that has been traditionally developing in Russia. In this respect, there is a certain imbalance related to the development of a tendency to somewhat one-sided (and considerably politicized) consideration of the nature of the national and the ethnical. Thus, in the examined aspect, one of the aims of the project is an attempt to investigate a possibility of an objectivistic (or essentialist) view in addition to social constructivism. The research on national features in the determined way as those that can have a natural and historical explanation (but not only a socio-constructivist one) will allow to clarify, up to a point, the status of moderate essentialism as a scientific methodology that has not declined in importance (and in some way, as a methodology, it corresponds to the features of Russian history and Russian mentality better).
Another problem the project will conceptualize is the applied analysis and description of national and psychological features per se. Nowadays, in the research community (in particular, in academic sociology), there is a trend to a break with the traditional “qualitative” analysis of the subject matter based on a searching elaboration of significant historical and cultural data and on “involved” observation. Instead of this, scholars use the methods of Western experts on cross-cultural communication in their research efforts (in particular, in the analysis of the specific character of Russian mentality). These methods suggest quite a simplified approach to a research (for instance, the method proposed by a Dutch social psychologist, G. Hofstede). It appears that such a vestigial (although not lacking in a certain common sense) description of a national mentality considerably lowers the level of research being conducted. Particularly, it does not allow to understand and describe the essence of the examined phenomenon in detail (this has always been common precisely for the Russian research tradition). Within the framework of the project, we see an opportunity for a partial overcoming of this tendency (the trend to an especially formalized analysis of national and psychological features).
The sphere of the project application is the field of research studies of the Department of Social Philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IP RAS), other sectors and subdivisions of the Department of Social and Political Philosophy of the IP RAS, institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences and tertiary institutions the Sector maintains direct cooperation with (Institute of Economics of the RAS; Institute of Sociology of the RAS; Department of Regional Studies and Centre of Cross-Cultural Studies, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Area Studies, Lomonosov Moscow State University; Department of Culturology, Moscow State Pedagogical University; Institute of Fundamental and Applied Studies, Department of Philosophy, Culturology and Politology, Department of Social and Ethnical Psychology, Moscow University for the Humanities; etc.). Moreover, the results of this project may be of big importance for institutions from Russian regions (in particular, national regions of the Cisurals, Volga River basin, Central Asia, etc.) where the problem of interethnic relations is quite topical.
The user community of the project will include academic researchers in the field of socio-human sciences, institutional lecturers (especially of faculties and departments of philosophy, political science, culturology, regional studies, social and ethnical psychology, foreign languages, etc.), students with majors in philosophy, politology, culturology, regional studies, foreign languages, psychology, and postgraduates.